June 25, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – [Updated 7/14/2019, and again 7/27/2019] Catholics following the scandals surrounding the ex-Cardinal McCarrick are probably well aware of the seemingly mysterious figure of the “influential Italian gentleman.” This individual met McCarrick at the North American College in Rome and asked McCarrick to ‘talk up Bergoglio‘ in the general congregations, or preparatory meetings for the 2013 conclave, which were to begin the morning of March 4. Per the video and transcript, it appears this McCarrick meeting occurred either on March 2nd, or possibly March 3, 2013 at the latest [See Note 1].
Last week I updated an article I had written on Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, S.J., and his Jesuit vows (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows?). In the course of researching that update, I developed some additional theories on the “influential Italian gentleman,” i.e., who he was, and who sent him. If this theory is correct, then it becomes even clearer why Pope Francis & company do not want a deeper investigation into McCarrick, as it might also reveal his importance in helping Cardinal Bergoglio win the papacy.
There are a few things that seem either obvious or probable from the transcript about the “influential Italian gentleman,” who I will refer to from here on out — for ease of use — as the “ITG.”
Paul Baklinski’s LifeSiteNews article provides the relevant portion of the transcript of the McCarrick-ITG conversation, as provided by McCarrick (see here):
“The conversation, as related by McCarrick, must be quoted at length to reveal its significance.
We sat down. This is a very brilliant man, a very influential man in Rome. We talked about a number of things. He had a favor to ask me for [when I returned] back home in the United States.
But then [the influential Italian] said, ‘What about Bergoglio?’
And I was surprised at the question.
I said, ‘What about him?’
He said, ‘Does he have a chance?’
I said, ‘I don’t think so, because no one has mentioned his name. He hasn’t been in anyone’s mind. I don’t think it’s on anybody’s mind to vote for him.”
He said, ‘He could do it, you know.’
I said, ‘What could he do?’
He said, ‘[Bergoglio] could reform the Church. If we gave him five years, he could put us back on target.’
I said, ‘But, he’s 76.’
He said, ‘Yeah, five years. If we had five years, the Lord working through Bergoglio in five years could make the Church over again.’
I said, ‘That’s an interesting thing.’
He said, ‘I know you’re his friend.’
I said, ‘I hope I am.’
He said, ‘Talk him up.’
I said, ‘Well, we’ll see what happens. This is God’s work.’
That was the first that I heard that there were people who thought Bergoglio would be a possibility in this election.
McCarrick went on to say in his talk that when his time came to speak to all the cardinals prior to the vote, he urged them to elect someone from “Latin America” who could identify with the poor.”
Profiling the “Influential Italian Gentleman”
Perhaps needless to say, many of us have wondered who is the “influential Italian gentleman” (ITG). That McCarrick referred to him as a “gentleman” rather than by a clerical title implies he is a layman. The ITG certainly seems to be closely associated with Bergoglio and or others very close to him, as he is aware that McCarrick and Bergoglio are friends (e.g., “I know you’re his friend”). Also, it is obvious the ITG is a Bergoglian partisan (e.g., “talk him up”).
Some have wondered if McCarrick’s visitor was a masonic figure like Gustavo Raffi or Stefano Bisi (see here). A whole list of potential masonic suspects with similar profiles might be found in One Peter Five’s interesting three-part series on “Why for the Freemasons Love Francis” (see here, here, here). I don’t rule out that McCarrick’s visitor was openly a mason, but I don’t think he was.
Why do I lean against the suggestion the ITG is someone like the masonic-journalist Bisi, or someone like him? First, if this meeting was some sort of pro-Bergoglian, masonic “plot” or “operation,” I doubt it makes much sense to meet McCarrick in a Catholic seminary, even if the visitor being a “journalist” had an ostensible purpose for the meeting. Some out of the way place in or out of the city would be more appropriate for such a meeting, not the North American College where another cardinal or prelate might take notice or recognize the visitor.
The second reason, and the main one why I doubt the individual is an open mason is because McCarrick further described the ITG as a “very influential man in Rome.” This suggests to me the ITG is well known and regarded in Vatican and curial circles, i.e., “Rome” in a purely Catholic context–not a civic or business one.
How might a layman be said to be very “influential” in the Vatican or the curia? Perhaps the ITG is involved with one or more Catholic charities, or perhaps he is something of a media personality, or perhaps he is a journalist. But, again, I believe the realm of his influence should be seen to be in a Catholic, ecclesiastical context (i.e., the Vatican and curia). It is here then, I believe, we will find the “influential Italian man.” I will return to this topic at the end of this article.
Did the “Influential Italian Gentleman” Act Alone or in League with Others?
The next question arises. In asking McCarrick to ‘talk up Bergoglio,’ was the ITG acting on his own, or acting at the request of someone else?
The Argument he acted alone
With regard to the first possibility, I don’t think we can exclude the possibility the ITG was acting on his own. If one were meeting a cardinal at this time in history, a discussion of the upcoming general congregations (March 4) and conclave (March 12) would be an obvious conversation to have. Speculation as to who the next pope would be was a hot topic of interest throughout Rome and the rest of the world. But, you say, the ITG pushed Bergoglio for pope! What about that?
That is true. However, while the ITG could have been a friend of Bergoglio (likely was) and a partisan (definitely was), the request he made of McCarrick may still have simply expressed his personal hope for a Bergoglian papacy — just as I might hope for a “Burkian” or “Schneiderian” papacy. But what about the phrase he used (i.e., “[Bergoglio] could reform the Church. If we gave him five years”), isn’t this strangely reminiscent of the “four years” line used by others (i.e., “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things”)?
Yes, it is strange. Unfortunately, Andrea Tornielli — then a Vaticanologist at La Stampa/Vatican Insider, but now Editorial Communications Director for Pope Francis — published that line on the morning of March 2nd (last updated 11:50am that same morning). Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility the ITG read the Tornielli article before meeting McCarrick. In this case, the ITG may have been repeating what he had read earlier that same day.
In sum, the “acted alone” theory, as outlined above, suggests the ITG sought McCarrick out for a favor, and simply used the occasion to express his personal support for a Bergoglian papacy, given the ITG’s personal friendship/knowledge of Bergoglio. It is not as conspiratorial or mysterious as other theories, but it cannot be ruled out at this point.
The Argument he did not act alone
The above said, the same facts are also what one might be expect to see if there had been some sort of plan to enlist McCarrick in support of a Bergoglian campaign for the papacy. Without access to any other hard proofs, is there evidence that suggests this might be the case? I think there is. I believe there is evidence to suggest that ITG’s approach and request coincides with Team Bergoglio’s strategy, as enunciated by Murphy-O’Connor. These three coincidences include: (1) “talk him up”; (2) the statement “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things”; and (3) the importance of McCarrick. To these, I would also add a fourth coincidence: timing.
“Talk him, up”
Austen Ivereigh, in an article entitled “Cormac the kingmaker: The lesson that proved decisive in the election of Pope Francis” (The Tablet, September 6, 2017), writes about the lesson Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said he had learned in the 2005 conclave that helped Bergoglio win the papacy in 2013. For example, speaking of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, Ivereigh writes: “He observed how the pro-Ratzinger team had gone about before the conclave promoting their man, so that by the time the conclave opened he had become the one to beat” and “Convinced that this man was Bergoglio, Cormac toured the red-hat dinners… to ensure he was talked about, as Ratzinger’s partisans had done in 2005…The idea was to give the Argentinian a strong head start out of the starting block, with at least 25 votes on the first ballot.”
The ITG’s request that McCarrick “talk up Bergoglio” is consistent with the above lesson learned from the 2005 conclave, and implemented in the run-up to the 2013 conclave, i.e., the need to talk up one’s candidate early and often in the Congregation meetings to give one’s candidate a “head start” in the conclave. The question is, how well did Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor learn this “lesson” and how early did he start the “talking up” campaign.
“Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things…”
McCarrick quotes the ITG as saying (c. March 2nd) “[Bergoglio] could reform the Church. If we gave him five years.” Tornielli’s article of March 2nd (see here) quotes an unnamed source saying pretty much the same thing: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.”
The origin of the phrase — “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things …” — is a curious one. Tornielli’s article, cited above, doesn’t specify the source beyond indicating he was a long-time friend of Bergoglio. Maike Hickson’s LifeSiteNews review of Gerald O’Connell’s book, The Election of Pope Francis discusses the famous quote. Maike Hickson, in her article (see “New book on Pope Francis’ election reveals the main kingmakers“) notes (emphasis added):
As O’Connell later reveals, another friend of Bergoglio’s, Cardinal Errazuriz, happened to say exactly the same words to Mathilde Burgos, a Chilean journalist. O’Connell quotes Errazuriz’ words as told to him by Burgos: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things!”
Another LifeSiteNews article, by Peter Baklinski (see here), observed that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had used this line as well with writer Paul Vallely (see here). Vallely in his article wrote: “”Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, and an old friend of Francis, told me.””
This is curious indeed. We have Cardinal Errazuriz using the line with a Chilean reporter, and we have either Cardinal Errazuriz or Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor using the same line with Tornielli. Or was it another cardinal that used it with Tornielli?!
With such a pedigree, the “four years” line appears to be a pre-packaged, electioneering talking point, something like an elevator pitch for Bergoglio. The line was used with at least three different journalists, and was possibly used by two or even three different cardinals. Yet, given this commonality, one may rightly wonder if the line was even original to any of them! It is possible the “four years of Bergoglio” line was written by someone else more adept at words and marketing to be used by other cardinals to sell Bergoglio?
Whatever the case, the phrase does appear to be talking point, and thus its use by the ITG with then-Cardinal McCarrick as part of a pitch to “talk up Bergoglio” — on the same day it was published by Tornielli — is striking. It is too coincidental.
The Importance of McCarrick – and the ‘Untold Story’
Okay, so one might ask. Why would a Bergoglian campaign even be interested in McCarrick?
McCarrick was ineligible to vote in the 2013 conclave because of his age. However, cardinals who were ineligible to participate in the conclave were able to participate in the pre-conclave congregations where issues and candidates were discussed. These congregations began the morning of March 4. Still, why would anyone behind the campaign for Bergoglio care about McCarrick?
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the “kingmaker,” provides, I think, the answer. Again, let us look at Maike Hickson’s book review of Gerald O’Connell’s book on the election of Pope Francis (see here) [emphasis added]. Ms. Hickson writes:
Murphy-O’Connor, who pulled many strings in the background, told O’Connell later: “The key was getting the Asians and Africans to support Bergoglio.” He added that “when the history of the conclave is written it will be shown that over the week of the General Congregations, a small minority helped lead the cardinals to understand that the front-runners (Scola, Scherrer, and Ouellet) were not the men to lead the Church at this time in history, and that the only candidate was Bergoglio.”
When we understand the importance of getting the Asian and African cardinals on board the Bergoglio campaign train, it becomes clear why McCarrick was seen as a vital component of the effort to elect Jorge Bergoglio–and, thus, why it was imperative to approach him for his assistance.
McCarrick’s relevance is highlighted in this Washingtonian article from October 2004. The article about the then-Cardinal McCarrick was written at a time when John Paul II’s health was failing and a conclave seemed near (see here)[emphasis added]:
“Because Pope John Paul II is in failing health and under an unofficial death watch, McCarrick is likely to be a part of the next conclave sealed in the Sistine Chapel to select a new successor to St. Peter. And his role there may be more significant than most Americans realize.
David Gibson, author of The Coming Catholic Church and a religion reporter who has covered the Vatican and knew McCarrick for the 18 years he was Archbishop of Newark, describes him as a “pope maker.” Over the years, Gibson says, McCarrick “has been the Pope’s point man on international issues, developing a number of international political contacts, including important ones in the church hierarchy.”
McCarrick’s travels for the Vatican have taken him through Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. Most of the cardinals haven’t traveled as much and don’t know many of the other cardinals. They will look to McCarrick to help bring them together behind a candidate.” He will have an important say on who the new pope will be,” Gibson says.”
While this article was written back in 2004, much of what it said about McCarrick remained true in 2013. While in 2013 McCarrick would not be able to vote, he still wielded influence with third world cardinals. McCarrick’s travels allowed him to come into contact with and remain well connected to cardinals in these locations. He would be a perfect agent of influence with cardinals from Asia and Africa, and other third world places because, as the article points out: “most of the cardinals haven’t traveled as much and don’t know many of the other cardinals.”
The other aspect of McCarrick’s influence with Asian and African Cardinals is the financial aid he is now known to have provided them. It has already been reported that McCarrick would pass out envelopes with cash to prelates in Rome who worked in the Curia. An Ed Condon article in the Catholic Herald, entitled “No answers from Washington archdiocese about McCarrick’s money” from July 12, 2019 touches upon the sources of funds for McCarrick’s giving. In this article, Condon also writes that “bishops from Asian or African dioceses and other parts of the world would often come through Washington and leave with financial support for different projects from McCarrick.” Per Condon, similar stories were told by former staff in Washington, as well as Newark. For example, Condon reports on a former priest-secretary under McCarrick who said:
“A bishop from India or Africa would come through town and cry over dinner that he couldn’t feed his seminarians and McCarrick would make sure he left with a $10,000 check; he was good like that, very open-handed.”
Given McCarrick handed out envelopes with cash to curial prelates whenever in Rome, we might also consider it likely he did so on his foreign trips in Asia and Africa. All this on top of the funds he dispersed to Third World cardinals who may have had occasion to meet in the U.S., such as in the example Condon notes above. McCarrick’s travel and financial assistance likely gave him considerable influence with Asian and African cardinals, and would have made him a valuable ally in the campaign to “talk up Bergoglio.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor spoke of how the ‘untold story’ (“when the history of the conclave is written it will be shown”) of the conclave was how the Bergoglians won over the Asians and Africans — a story line into which the ITG-McCarrick meeting fits perfectly.
Another aspect of McCarrick’s importance to Bergoglio’s candidacy is his obvious link to the American cardinals-electors. Reporting on the conclave has suggested that Cardinal Wuerl of Washington D.C., who succeeded McCarrick in D.C., was the “principal Pope-Maker” of the Americans, who pushed them toward Bergoglio (See Paolo Rodari of La Repubblica quoted here and in the Huffington Post here). Given McCarrick’s ties to Wuerl, one may wonder what part McCarrick played in Wuerl’s ‘pope-making’ on behalf of Bergoglio. (NB: If, as it appears, both played important roles in the election of Bergoglio, does this explain Pope Francis’s rehabilitation of McCarrick as described by Archbishop Vigano, as well as his handling of Wuerl in the wake of the McCarrick scandal after news of it broke in 2018 (e.g., referring to Wuerl’s “nobility”?)
If the meeting was part of the Bergoglian campaign, who sent the ITG?
Let me be clear. I am not saying the ITG was in fact “sent” or “asked to go.” I have offered an acceptable “innocent” scenario which explains all the known facts. Still, as we have seen, the available evidence is also consistent with the theory the meeting may have been part of the Bergoglian campaign. There appears are to many coincidences to dismiss the conspiracy theory.
One of the common threads running through the article is Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, i.e., the rationale that explains the “why” of approaching McCarrick, the Bergoglio elevator pitch, and the need to “talk up” one’s candidate early and often. This would suggest, if McCarrick was part of the campaign effort, then Murphy-O’Connor likely had a hand in orchestrating it.
There is a potential problem with this tentative conclusion. Published accounts of Team Bergoglio by Ivereigh and O’Connell seem to suggest Bergoglio was not their candidate until March 6th or later, days after the McCarrick meeting. If we accept Murphy-O’Connor’s accuracy on this point, it would seem he would not have been the one to send the ITG to McCarrick. In addition, we know other participants in Team Bergoglio, such as Cardinal Kaspar, are sensitive to any suggestion of campaigning or networking (e.g., here). Thus, if we take all of these cardinals at their word, who is left? By the process of elimination, removing all of these other cardinals, the only Cardinal left to have “sent” the ITG to McCarrick would have been none other than Cardinal Bergoglio. This is interesting, since the “profile” of the ITG suggests he not only knows Bergoglio, but is a Bergoglian partisan.
Okay, so who is the “Influential Italian Gentleman?”
Earlier, I gave my thoughts on the profile of the “influential Italian gentleman.” Where, or when to we look for him? If there was indeed a hidden campaign that involved McCarrick, the planning would have begun before March 2nd. So, if we were to look for “suspects,” I would suggest we do research into who Cardinals Bergoglio and Murphy-O’Connor met between the time of their arrival in Rome on February 27th and March 1st, when they dined together. Information available in Gerald O’Connor’s book (See Hickson’s article) allows some of it to be pieced together. Here is some of what is known:
February 27th: Bergoglio arrived this day in Rome. Andrea Tornielli “met Bergolio the day the prelate arrived in Rome” for “dinner at the house of some friends” (See Hickson’s article). According to Gerard O’Connell, in his book, The Election of Pope Francis, this dinner was held at the house of Gianni Valente, who had been a writer for the Trenta Giorni (an Italian Catholic monthly, published in six languages, from 1983 to 2012). Also present was Lucio Brunelli (“an Italian state television reporter”). Valente and his wife were long time friends of Cardinal Bergoglio. All these men wanted Bergoglio to be elected pope, as seems apparent in O’Connell’s book.
February 28th: Pope Benedict XVI resigned, effective 8pm local time. I assume there were ceremonies and dinners to attend, etc., so there was likely no time for cardinals to plan anything.
March 1st: Cardinal Bergoglio had dinner with Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. Oddly, the account in O’Connell’s book suggests this is when Murphy-O’Connor thought “this man could be pope” (Per Ms. Hickson’s LifeSite Review), and subsequent to this dinner would introduce Bergoglio’s name to other cardinals as a potential candidate. This suggests it was from this night forward that Murphy-O’Connor must have begun to use the line: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.”
March 2nd: Andrea Tornielli publishes the famous line (“four years…”) in Vatican Insider. If this line originated with Murhpy-O’Connor on March 1st, this suggests Tornielli spoke with Murphy O’Connor the previous night, or early in the morning on March 2nd. This is so because the date-time stamp on Tornielli’s article indicates the last modification to it to have been made at 11:50AM. This seeming quick turnaround by Tornielli indicates, in my opinion, a level of chumminess, if not outright co-ordination between Bergoglio-Murphy-O’Connor-Tornielli. [NB: This suspicion is further strengthened when one remembers Tornielli met Bergoglio on the day of his arrival, and was again with him on the eve of the conclave (See Hickson’s article). As Hickson also reports in her review of O’Connell’s book, Team Bergoglio tallied up 25 votes for Bergoglio on the eve of the election. Did Murphy-O’Connor relay the tally to Bergoglio? Was Tornielli, who was with Bergoglio that night, privy to that count? (See Note 2)].
Later this day, the “influential Italian gentleman” met with McCarrick and essentially used the same line.
While I cannot rule out the “influential Italian gentleman” was a lone-actor, there are too many coincidences to accept this scenario at face value. It is possible scenario, but not a likely one in my opinion. The number of coincidences suggest to me that the Bergoglian campaign was already in high gear upon Bergoglio’s arrival in Rome – indeed, if not before (See Note 3). If the “influential Italian gentleman” was sent to McCarrick, it appears Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor may have organized it. However, at this early stage, I suspect Cardinal Bergoglio would have been involved as well, wanting to leave nothing to chance.
The list of candidates to be the “influential Italian gentleman” is not to be found in the ranks of the masons as some have suggested. Instead, given the importance of McCarrick to the campaign, I believe this individual would have been among the most trusted, lay friends, advisers and sycophants in Bergoglio’s orbit. Thus, my hunch would be, it would one of the three Italian journalist Bergoglio met on the day of his arrival in Rome, i.e., Gianni Valente, Andrea Tornielli, or Lucio Brunelli. My sense would be, the odds are great it would be Valente (a long time friend of Bergoglio) or Tornielli (see part III of this series).
If there was indeed an approach made to McCarrick by a layman at the direction of Cardinal Bergoglio or Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor before the start of the general congregations (March 4), does this have any relevance in light of Universi Domenici Gregis? I can’t say. I am not a canonist. I don’t see anything in UDG that appears to apply. If a canonist would like to express an opinion, feel free to email me.
If McCarrick was approached as part of the Bergoglian campaign, I don’t expect Team Francis will ever want to admit it, even if there is no violation of UDG. For to admit they did so, is to admit McCarrick likely played a key role in the election of Pope Francis, a pope whose credibility is already severely damaged by the McCarrick scandal.
Finally, if this whole mess was really not against the rules, I suggest the “good guys” learn how to play this game before the next conclave. As the Lord say: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be as shrewd as serpents, but innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former Intelligence Officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall 2019 (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).
An argument might be made that the McCarrick meeting happened in the midst of the general congregations. However, this seems unlikely as he would have been aware that some people at that point were mentioned Bergoglio’s name to some extent. Therefore, the plain meaning of his words, and difficulties with the later dating, do suggest that McCarrick met the “influential Italian gentleman” on March 2nd, or possibly March 3rd.
He has been an unwavering supporter of Pope Francis. Others have seemed to observe this in him. Edward Pentin named Tornielli as being one of three of Pope Francis’ “unofficial spokesmen” (see here). The Vatican Insider has defended all things Bergoglio since day one. Torniellia even developed something of a Bergoglian enemies list (see here and here), and he is known for his attack on Archbishop Vigano (see here).Tornielli avid defender of Bergoglio in the face of the Vigano charges (e.g., here). He appears to share Pope Francis’ high opinion of the late Cardinal Martini, writing a book of him (see here) published in September 2012 after the Cardinal’s death. Seems close to Francis (see here).
As I stated above, Andrea Tornielli was with Cardinal Bergoglio on the eve of the conclave, and I presume must have been present when Murphy-O’Connor presented Bergoglio with the vote tally from the Team Bergoglio meeting. This might explain the perplexity of Fr. Mark Drew. Fr. Drew wrote an article entitled “Did the pundits get this year’s conclave spectacularly wrong?” in which he gave a poor scorecard to Vatican pundits for their poor conclave predictions, all except one. Andrea Tornielli. Fr. Drew comments in part (emphasis added):
In fact, some of the best-informed Italian journalists had noticed that his name was recurring in the talk during the final days of the build-up. Andrea Tornielli, that oracle among vaticanologists, not only mentioned him on the morning the conclave began, but later the same day brazenly offered his own version of the state of the deliberations still under way among the sequestered cardinals.
As all know, the participants in a conclave are vowed to the strictest secrecy. Nonetheless, once it is over the details usually come out in dribs and drabs until something like a clear picture can be formed. It is now known that Bergoglio was the only other serious contended to rival Ratzinger in 2005. Tornielli, however, seemed to have inside information even as the voting proceeded. Perhaps this was merely a priori calculation on the basis of information obtained beforehand, but in any case, Tornielli’s analysis proved remarkable prescient. He averred confidently that there was a deadlock in the conclave, but he mentioned Bergoglio, along with Scola and Ouellet, as one of the three front-runners.
Was it prescience or did Tornielli, who met Bergoglio the day he arrived in Rome (February 27), and was with him on the eve of the conclave know something of what was going on? One thinks, there are no coincidences. Was he with Bergoglio on the eve of the conclave when he received a report from Murphy-O’Connor regarding their vote tally?
On a separate note, regarding the candidacy of Cardinal Scola. Certain offices in his archdiocese were raided on the eve of the conclave (see here). While the impact on his candidacy for the papacy is not clear, certainly such news could not have helped him just as the cardinals were about to go into the conclave. Did this unfortunate coincidence hurt his chances? Reporting does suggest that he led the first vote of the conclave, but Bergoglio passed him in the second and continued to gain strength thereafter until he was elected (see here).
February 11 — Pope Benedict announced his intent to resign the papacy, as of February 28, 2013. Henry Sire’s book, The Dictator Pope, reports that when Pope Benedict XVI publicly announced on February 11, 2013 his intent to resign, the news “took almost the whole world by surprise; not Bergoglio and his associates, however, as eyewitnesses discovered” (p.46). Sire’s book reports Cardinal Bergoglio received “calls of personal congratulations” (p.46) and he was said to be “exultant.” As the author’s source reported (emphasis added):
“One Argentinian friend, however, less well informed than the others, rang up to ask about the extraordinary news, and Bergoglio told him: “You don’t know what this means.” (Source: “The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy.” Marcantonio Colonna. Regnery Publishing. Washingon, DC. 2017, p. 46)
It seems rather evident from the evidence that an “exultant” Cardinal Bergoglio desired to be elected pope, and believed Benedict’s resignation meant just that. Apparently, so did those who called him with “personal congratulations.”
Therefore, claims that Bergoglio was surprised by his election are utter bunk. He clearly knew others thought he could be pope, and it is evident he wanted to be pope. Therefore, it is improbable he was passively waiting for others to act on his behalf in the time between Benedict’s resignation (February 11) and the conclave (March 11).